It was a tough day out for the Ireland senior women’s and men’s teams today at their respective 2018 FIBA European Championship for Small Countries, as they lost out to Luxembourg and Malta respectively.
The girls in green played out a tough and challenging encounter at the Mardyke Arena UCC this evening, but were simply outclassed by a solid Luxembourg side, losing out 47-70 in the end.
“We dug ourselves into a hole and we just couldn’t get out,” admitted Ireland’s Fiona O’Dwyer, who has gone to the top of the overall tournament stats board for game efficiency after finishing this evening’s clash with 21 points.
“It’s tough now. It’s always tough after a loss, but we played so hard tonight. Yes, we could have done a few things better, but they got a lead on us and we dug ourselves into a bit of a hole after that and we just couldn’t get out.“
Indeed O’Dwyer’s own effort couldn’t be faulted, finishing top scorer for the Irish in what was truly a tough match up against a clinical and well-drilled Luxembourg side.
O’Dwyer led the charge in the opening quarter, scoring 10 of Ireland’s 12 first period points, but the visitors were already finding their rhythm at this early stage, edging into a 23-12 lead by the end of the quarter.
Penetrating moves from Luxembourg’s Cathy Schmit saw her team mates Magaly Meynadier and Nadia Mossong reap the rewards, as they notched a number of points off her assists, and by half time, the visitors were 40-22 to the good.
A fiery start to the third quarter by the Irish seemed to put the spark back into the offense as Sarah Woods and O’Dwyer began to shine once more, but a timely time out from Luxembourg soon killed off momentum, and they pushed on from there through the fourth to win out 70-47 point winners in the end.
“We’re very disappointed,” said head coach, Mark Scannell, afterwards. “Luxembourg were very good tonight, but I thought our girls worked very hard. We were beaten by the better team this evening. Now, we have to regroup.
Over in San Marino meanwhile, there was disappointment for Pete Strickland and his senior men’s squad as they lost out to a physically dominant Malta side, 76-65, in their opening group game.
Malta's superior size saw was ultimately the difference as they drove home to their second win of the tournament, while for Ireland, the loss means it’s a winner takes all battle against Andorra in the final group game on Thursday.
Ireland made a strong start to the game with the help of lightning quick Travis Black who was a thorn in the side of the Malta defense and talisman Taiwo Badmus. Things were looking good for Ireland, as impact subs Adrian O’Sullivan and Patrick Lyons added extra intensity to the game and shot well from the three-point line, while Lorcan Murphy ran the floor in style, to see the sides tied at 37 apiece at half time.
Huge scores from Keelan Cairns and Murphy kept the Irish scoring ticking over in the third, but the size and presence of Malta’s 7’6 centre, Samuel Deguara, continued to cause trouble for the Irish inside and it was Malta who held a slender five-point lead going into the last. Deguara and Aaron Falzon upped the pressure in the fourth, and in the end, Ireland just couldn’t find the scores when needed most, losing out 76-65.
They now face Andorra tomorrow in a must-win final group game clash at 2pm Irish time.
UPCOMING FIXTURES – Thursday, June 28th, 2018
- Ireland Men v Andorra, 2pm, San Marino
- Ireland Women v Cyprus, 6.15pm, Mardyke Arena UCC
IRELAND WOMEN’S TEAM: Aine McKenna, Sarah Woods (11), Casey Grace, Claire Rockall (5), Amy Waters, Grainne Dwyer (2), Danielle O’Leary, Fiona O’Dwyer (21), Sorcha Tiernan (5), Hannah Thornton (2), Edel Thornton, Stephanie O’Shea (1).
IRELAND MEN’S TEAM: Adrian O’Sullivan (15), Aidan Quinn, Lorcan Murphy (13), Patrick Lyons (7), Travis Black (9), Jordan Blount (7), Ciaran Roe (2), Matthew Kelly, Taiwo Badmus (5), Keelan Cairns (7), Eoghain Kiernan, Paul Freeman.
- Digital Desk